Sunday, 28 September 2014

How important is it to be close to London? (aka as ‘The Big Retford Puzzle’)

Tomorrow morning I'll again travel from London to Durham - and may wonder again about the puzzle indicated in the title of this post. What's it about? 
  It is meant to refer to two signs at Retford station that advertise 'Offices to Let'. Both indicate that Leeds is 1h away, but the one on the left says that it is 1h15 to London, while the one on the right says that it is 1h40...
  How can this be possible? I think one can assume that in general it'd be good to be close to London. Checking the train timetable it’s actually 1h30. So, perhaps the person on the left, trying to be smart, understated the time a bit; maybe thinking that he (she) could always argue that he's referring to the mere duration of the journey to the border of Greater London. But then, what is the explanation for the sign on the right hand-side? Why not 'collude' and just say the same as the person on the left?
  I don't have an answer for it but perhaps he or she is just honest! (assuming that it may take ten minutes or so to get to the train station in Retford)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Has legislation become less readable?

A while ago I came across the various readability indicators (overviews eg here and here). A popular one is the Gunning Fog Index which is mainly based on the length of words and sentences. It gives you a number: the higher the value, the less readable the text. It is said that a value of 12 is the threshold where a text gets beyond 'near-universal understanding' and requires a 'level of a U.S. high school senior (ca 18 years old)'.
  Now let’s test the question posed in the title for UK legislation. I randomly took three acts from 100 years ago (1 2 3 ) and three from this year (1 2 3), copied the text of these acts (if necessary limited to ten pages; omitting the table of contents), and pasted it to a Gunning Fog website.
  The result: the 100-year old laws had the values 13.75, 15.65 and 10.75 while the current ones had 21.45, 19.77 and 19.42. Thus, the answer is a clear 'yes'.
  Btw: how does my writing compare to it? I quickly calculated it for three of my recent academic articles: the values are 16.79, 16.06, 17.53: thus, fortunately, my writing is more readable than contemporary UK legislation. And for this blog, it's even just 12.44, thus close to the magic number 12 where I’d have 'near-universal understanding'.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

My conference schedule for September (and in the coming academic year?)

  Then, useful to keep track of some of the major conferences for 2015 (with deadlines often in the next few months): I contemplate to submit papers for the Law & Society conference in Seattle, the SLSA annual conference in Warwick, the annual conference of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics in London, and the next annual conference of the International Society for New Institutional Economics presumably at Harvard.